Jim Marshall, Maker Of Famed Fuzzy Amplifiers, Dies At 88
Jim Marshall, who made rock ’n’ roll rawer and noisier by inventing the amplifier that helped define guitarists from Jimi Hendrix to members of countless garage bands, died on Thursday at a hospice in London. He was 88.
His death was announced by the company he founded, Marshall Amplification. The Associated Press said the cause was cancer.
Mr. Marshall was part of the English music scene as a drummer, drumming teacher and owner of a store in London that sold drums as the new rock music was gathering momentum in the early 1960s. Musicians urged him to add guitars and amplifiers to his wares. One of them, Pete Townshend of the Who, said he told Mr. Marshall that he wanted something “bigger and louder.”
“I was demanding a more powerful machine gun” to “blow people away all around the world,” Mr. Townshend told NPR in 2002. “I wanted it to be as big as the atomic bomb had been.”
With his sixth prototype, Mr. Marshall and his helpers came up with a harmless-looking black box with a speaker inside and controls on top. It would become the basis for the formidable wall of amplifiers used by Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and almost every other major rock guitarist in the ’60s and ’70s and by the next generation of guitarists as well, including Kurt Cobain, Eddie Van Halen and Slash.
This acoustic artillery came to be called the “wall of Marshalls” or “Marshall stacks.” Mr. Marshall became known as “the father of loud.”
The Marshall amps were cheaper than the ones made by Fender, which produced a more precise sound. But the emerging rockers wanted something rougher and rowdier. In a tribute on Twitter, Mötley Crüe’s bassist, Nikki Sixx, said Mr. Marshall had been “responsible for some of the greatest audio moments in music’s history — and 50 percent responsible for all our hearing loss.”